Can’t get over the Rainbow

January 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm 6 comments

I’ve explored all kinds of veggies this past year through my CSA, my weekly jaunts to the farmer’s markets, and my modest backyard garden. But my favorite green leafy thing for flavor, diversity, flexibility, nutrition, beauty, and, best of all, fool-proof hardiness, is one that caught me my surprise.

I’ve fallen in love with Rainbow Chard.

Swiss Chard of course is that lettuce-like plant, actually a root, whose leaves look like they fell off a very large oak tree. Chard isn’t from Switzerland at all, but it was named by a Swiss botanist in the 19th century. It originated in the Mediterranean and has thrived for hundreds of years. Aristotle wrote about it in the 4th century B.C.

Rainbow is Swiss chard on psychedelics: its leaves can be yellow, orange, red, green, even plum colored; its stem is beet red, purple or orange. I can’t take my eyes off it in the garden, and sometimes I have had to interrupt my walk around the community college farm lab to admire my Rainbow neighbors when they are in full living color.

Most of all I love that chard can be grown and harvested all year around, through the most atrocious weather. It’s the only leafy green I know that can be sown and reaped through hot, humid months like we have here in spring and summer AND cold frigid temperatures , like our fall and winter. You can’t say that about lettuce, spinach or kale, as nice as they are.

Chard just won’t give up. When lettuce and broccoli bolt in late spring, and cauliflower never quite makes it, chard just keeps on keeping on. When the squash has succumbed to bugs and worms, and the tomatoes have finally given out, chard is still there for you. And when just about everything else in the fall garden has been put to bed for the winter, chard is still growing strong and colorful (looking good!).

It’s almost scary, the creature from beneath the soil. Bella Lugosi? No, it’s Beta Vulgaris. For real.

Farmer Doug and Agent Debbie say that chard can be planted here from direct seed Feb 15 through April 1, harvested April 15- July 1 or so, and planted by seed again, or transplanted Aug. 15-Sept. 15 for a second harvest Oct. 1-Dec. 15. You can use season extension tricks (row covers, etc.) to stretch the sowing and reaping boundaries even further, and if you winter it over, it will be ready for havest again in March, overlapping your early spring plantings nicely. Talk about true-blue loyalty and longevity.

Chard can be nibbled when it’s young and tender or savored long after “maturity,” when the leaves are fatter, tougher and, yes, a bit more wrinkled. It can be used raw in salads or even as a wrap. Sorry, Popeye, but anything spinach can do, chard can do better and longer. It can be boiled, steamed or sauteed and added to lasagna, omelets, frittata, pasta, risotto, burritos, quesadillas, stir-frys, soups, chili and even pizza.

Despite sub-freezing temperatures, I found fresh Rainbow chard from Edible Earthscape in Chatham Marketplace recently, enjoyed it in my salad for several days and as the main ingredient in a tasty quiche.

If that ain’t enough, Chard is jam packed with vitamins. A healthy serving includes seven times the recommended daily dose of vitamin K (for bone strength), 110% of the daily value of vitamin A, and half the daily value for vitamin C . It’s also an excellent source of magnesium and calcium (both for bone strength), potassium (for the heart), iron (for energy) and vitamin E (for anti-inflammatory), copper, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B5, zinc and folate, and it provides 15% of the daily value needed for dietary fiber.

All that and it’ll only cost you 35 calories.

Come to think of it, Rainbow chard is a lot like our local sustainable farm movement: colorful, diverse, hard-working, zesty, persistent, good for the local economy, good for the planet and good for us. An amazing community asset growing right under our noses, all year round. Just waiting to be harvested

Entry filed under: Commentary, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized, Whole Food/ Locavore Eateries. Tags: , .

Taking sustainability to the next level Carolina offers local, organic grub

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. edibleearthscape  |  January 17, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    This is an awesome piece about rainbow Swiss Chard. It is my all time favorite green as well for all of the above that you have mentioned! You can be our spokesperson at the farmers market anytime when we need to move those swiss chard! Thanks Dee, for your enthusiasm for swiss chard, farming and the community:)

    • 2. sustainablegrub  |  January 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks for growing Rainbow Chard!

  • 3. Mary DeMare  |  January 18, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I love the comparison between Rainbow Chard and our Local farming community…especially the zesty part!

    • 4. sustainablegrub  |  January 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm


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